Thursday, February 23, 2012

I Left My Heart In Eustis!

A few months back my husband and I were strolling along the streets of Mt. Dora, remember that post about Florida's Little Mountain, and we stopped into a little shop called Rafiki. Figuring it was African art, we stopped in because, number one...we absolutely love African art and dream of having a library full of books and African decor, and two...we know so many people who live there and serve there...well, we had to stop in. When we walked in, the man behind the counter told us about their facility in Eustis and what it was all about. He mentioned that their headquarters was a replica of the villages that are built in the 10 countries of Africa that house orphans. He handed me this card below and I told him that I was going to bring my children by....so I did just that today (probably yesterday by the time this gets posted)! It's Wednesday and we are committed to focusing our hearts, minds and prayers to Missions on Wednesdays!
I don't exactly know what I expected. Perhaps, just a store that sold the crafts handmade by the widows in their widow program. I didn't expect the incredible sense of love that I received when I walked through those doors you see in the next picture.
Mr. Ken Long was the gentleman that greeted us. Here I am, 11:00am, with my 3 superheros, walking in unannounced. From the word, "Hello", I could sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in that place. "Rafiki" means friend in Swahili and it intentionally depicts the purpose of the Foundation -- "to befriend orphans and widows in their distress" from James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." Mr. Long spoke to us about the purpose of the Rafiki Foundation (please click on the name and go directly to their website...it is beautifully done and full of wonderful information.)
When we arrived we watched a video explaining how since 1985, Rafiki has answered God's call to be that "friend" to the needy in Africa in various ways, including missionary work in 10 Africa countries. In 2001, they received its first orphan, and has made orphan care and Christian education its top priority. These children, all orphaned because of famine, war, and illness (mainly HIV/AIDS) are being rescued from starvation, disease, despair, and hopelessness. They are given a healthy future filled with laughter, promise, security, learning and love!
The Rafiki Village gives job opportunities for many national women who are each trained to become the permanent mother of 10 children. You could tell these children were full of joy. One of the comments made by one of my superheros...."Mom, they are singing in English...and they seem so happy!" When we are rescued and shown the love of Jesus...yes...we are full of joy and it shows!
When we walked into the Rafiki Exchange, Mr. Long and I were talking about the curriculum that is used to educate the children who live in their villages. It is an academic curriculum integrated with a biblical worldview, made specifically for these African children. I don't think this is a part of their regular tour..not sure..but he brought us back into the printing room..and we saw all the boxes of curriculum ready to be shipped to different countries. It reminded me of what some of us homeschoolers call..."box day". Oh how my children love to get their hands on their new school "stuff". I thought about those boys and girls and teachers who will handle those very pieces of paper..and I was moved to pray over those boxes. So right there..my boys and I laid hands on those boxes and prayed. (I know..bold..but Mr. Long seem appreciative...and I felt the prompting of the Lord...so..we prayed and he prayed with us!)  Prayed for the Holy Spirit to go before these boxes and prepare the hearts of every boy, girl and teacher to receive the love of Christ. We prayed blessing over each one who will be touched by the very specific curriculum prepared, I'm sure, with much thought and love! Oh, we felt like we had just been a part of something amazing. There is such power in prayer! We talked about that moment in the copy room the whole day.
Here is Mr. Ken Long showing us one of the many beautiful pieces of handcrafts made by the widows and impoverished women in Africa! 100% of the proceeds go back to these people. May the Lord richly bless each and every one. I just went around the room, praying over items that I know represented women, who sat beside one another, enjoying each other's fellowship and receiving the benefit of hearing a Rafiki Bible Study. Everything is so moderately priced. Yes...we did get a special something...an ornament. If you know us, Christmas ornaments are very special as each one represents some "time" or some "one" and each one has a special story behind it. When we take out our special ornament...we will remember this day...always!
Now I wish I had asked what "asante" meant. Brendan gave his opinion....goodbye, exit? I know some of you who read this live in South Africa...perhaps you could leave a comment. ;)
What was so unique about this trip..was that when we walked around the grounds of this facility in Eustis, (which by the way was anonymously donated...all 57 acres...you know that it was God's will for sure!) the complex replicates the design of a Rafiki Training Village in Africa. As I talked with my boys, they could visualize students walking in and out of the homes, the dining hall, the schools. Such a powerful statement for them. Mr. Long did an amazing job of painting a wonderful picture in our minds and hearts.

Picture this building with several doors like this..each one to a different classroom. I get weepy just thinking about the boys and girls. (happy tears...no worries!)

Here we are in front of the map. The 10 flags mark the places where Rafiki have established their training villages - each one providing living, educational, and life skill facilities through the four programs offered by the foundation: Childcare, Education, Training and Widows....
..Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia. To gain a little perspective of the size of Africa..just look at this picture below. Don't quote me, but I think that we were told that in America alone there are approximately 500,000 orphans (half a million)...but in Africa...
something like 29 million orphans..."Flow river flow, flood the nations with Grace & Mercy...send forth Your Word, Lord and let there be LIGHT!"
 My children, really didn't want to leave this place. I told you...we felt the love here.
We noticed their hymnal had many of the songs we sing too. Shane mentioned how cool it was to see the digital photo frame of pictures of the children, and know that these kids were probably singing these songs.

When we got out to the car, Brendan asked if there was more we could do. He wants to go back, to volunteer there, or go to Africa. This really touched my children. We felt like we made new "rafikis" (friends) today! It really isn't new, we've heard missionaries speak. We have friends who are missionaries...even in Africa. We pray for our missionaries and the people whom they are being "Jesus in skin" to.  He says to me..."Mom, could you become a teacher in one of their schools? You are a teacher?" I told him that long before they were born, their Dad and I felt like perhaps the Lord was calling us to teach English in China. We didn't know, we still don't really know. We have a heart for lost people...we pray our children are grasping that part of our heart and that the Holy Spirit is taking hold of their precious hearts. Today was proof that indeed...He is moving the hearts of my superheros. Mike and I are working hard to be intentional in the training of our children. In the end...our legacy to them...is to do this...
...take up their cross and follow Christ! To remember that we are "God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Eph. 2:10
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To catch up on how we are focusing on Missions...feel free to see these posts: Pray Until It Melts, Love-Praying for Light and Little Man With a Big Heart.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

So happy to hear about your awesome experience. "Asante" means "thank you" in Swahili. =]

Allison Reynolds said...

You hit something special in my heart with this post...god is stirring in me too. So excited!!!

The Murphy's said...

I randomly ran across your blog today! What a blessing to me..I have 2 young boys and trying my best to raise them to be men of God ;) Love the praying until the ice cube melts, what a great idea! Have a great day!

Jamie Sulle said...

What a beautiful and meaningful day! Wow!!

Michelle said...

Perhaps you will teach and Mike will do medical work. Perhaps now it's a matter of when.